As the new Congress is sworn in this week, there is no denying that pro-LGBT numbers have shrunk on Capitol Hill. A Human Rights Campaign analysis shows a pick-up of 53 House seats to anti-LGBT lawmakers as well as a 5 seat addition in the Senate. Not only do those opposing basic equality hold positions of power as House leaders and committee chairmen, their ranks have swollen to 225 – a solid majority of the chamber. This presents not just a roadblock to progress but also the threat of legislation that could be damaging to the community.
When anti-equality forces controlled Congress for a decade (1994-2005), they stymied any progress on LGBT issues, instead making attacks on our community part of their governing agenda. Among these were: attempting twice to amend the U.S. Constitution to deny marriage equality to same-sex couples nationwide; trying to strip federal courts of the authority to hear marriage equality cases; blocking DC’s local efforts to provide domestic partnership benefits to its employees; cutting funding for HIV prevention, research and treatment despite a growing epidemic, while pouring federal dollars into disproven abstinence-only programs that exclude or even denigrate LGBT youth; and standing in the way of openly-LGBT appointees.
At least their power is limited by the Senate and the President, but it’s going to be a stagnant couple of years.